AFP file photo of an Iraqi armored vehicle driving through a heavily damaged street in west Mosul.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Schools and markets are reopening in east Mosul as most residents have been able to return home while entire neighborhoods in the western half of the city remain empty and leveled to the ground in months of battle, said a senior United Nations (UN) official in Geneva on Tuesday.
“Mosul's really a tale of two cities. Eastern Mosul is a city that's recovering, people are home, schools are open, businesses are open, markets are open. Conditions aren't great but it's a city on the mend,” said UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande at a press conference in Geneva.
She went on to say that the contrast between west and east Mosul could not be clearer. “Everyone’s gone home to eastern Mosul except for 20,000 people.”
The situation in west Mosul is very different, Grande explained, who is also the Deputy Special Representative of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).
“In the 15 completely destroyed neighborhoods, there are 230,000 civilians who come from those districts who are not coming home anytime soon,” she said.
Mosul, which has been the site of the largest urban battle since World War II, had also witnessed the largest evacuation in modern history as nearly 1 million civilians fled the city to refugee and IDP camps in the Nineveh Plains and the Kurdistan Region.
“Very exceptionally, humanitarian agencies were not near the front line, they were on the front line,” she said.
A total of 3.3 million people remain IDPs in Iraq since January 2014 and 257,476 Iraqi refugees are currently being hosted in other countries in the region including 21,503 Iraqi refugees arriving at camps in Hassakeh, Syria since October.
Three years of ISIS control over Mosul and military operations to liberate the city left key infrastructure in ruins, causing the largest rebuilding and stabilization challenge the world has seen in decades.
Although Mosul has been liberated, Grande mentioned that there are three more military operations to be expected in Tal Afar, Hawija, and the Euphrates Valley in the western Anbar Province.
“We think that by the end of those military operations several hundred thousand more civilians are likely to be displaced,” Grand said. “[As such] when the military campaign in Iraq is over, we are possibly looking at 3.5 million civilians who will need to go home.”